DIGGING DEEPER: Controversial Canine - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

DIGGING DEEPER: Controversial Canine

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KWWL is digging deeper into the pit bull debate, and telling the stories of both a pit bull owner and the victim of a pit bull attack.

Pit bulls can be both a family pet and a magnet for debate. 

For Vivien Brookman of Waterloo, a pit bull attack that changed her life on August 27, 2013.

"He jumped and grabbed me in the face right here.  And I thought if I don't go down, he's going to rip my face right off of me," Brookman said.

She was out on her daily walk around her neighborhood when the attack happened.

"I looked down and saw a dog standing in front of me, and I thought, I'm in trouble... I can remember going into a black place."

Brookman was mauled by three pit bulls nearly four years ago. Pictures of her in the hospital show her painful recovery. Brookman said she suffered more than 200 bites, and had more than $50,000 in hospital bills.

Brookman still comes across pit bulls on the streets near her home; the City of Waterloo doesn't ban the breed. In fact, all major cities in the KWWL viewing area allow them: Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. 

Many other towns in eastern Iowa, however, have ordinances in place, banning pit bulls. Cities like Edgewood, Vinton, and Belle Plaine. Benton County also has an ordinance in place banning pit bulls. Other towns, like Postville for example, choose to regulate pit bulls by having owners register them with the city. 

As aforementioned, pit bulls can also be a family pet, which brings a different perspective about the pit bull breed.

Leah Teems and her family live in Cedar Rapids. Teems might want to move someday, so for now, she has an Olde English Bulldogge after saying goodbye to Tiger last year.

Tiger was a pit bull, and part of the Teems family for nearly 12 years.

"He was just the sweetest guy. He changed so many people's opinions about pit bulls," Teems said. 

Tiger grew up with Teems' daughter, Macy, and son, Dallas.

"Tiger was a huge snuggler. He loved to snuggle...Macy and him would be laying on the floor with pillows out, she would cover up him up and he would sleep next to her. Dallas would snuggle up, too... She's a girl so she did dress up all the time... and when we would put her to bed, he'd lay by the door."

"He had a huge impact," Teems said.

KWWL's Ally Crutcher talked with an experienced Cedar Valley veterinarian about the pit bull debate. Because it's such a sensitive topic -- they don't want their practice named. The doctor said some pit bulls are bred to be aggressive toward other dogs, and that can translate to people. But also said, how they're raised has a big impact. A vet at Iowa State University, who researches animal behavior, agreed, and said it's all about how they're socialized.

"Any dog can be friendly, a pit bull included can be a friendly dog, if it's raised right," Brookman said.

Brookman said even after her attack, she doesn't want a pit bull ban in Waterloo.

"No. I have nothing against the breed. I have friends who have pit bulls and they're the friendliest dogs."

However, Brookman does have a problem with some owners who choose to let their dogs run loose, and don't consider the consequences. The owner who attacked her faced a fine of $200, and the dogs were taken away by Animal Control. 

"Sure, you might fine this guy but who says he's gonna pay the fine? If he ain't got no money, how are you going to get money?" Brookman said.

She wants jail time as a consequence for dog owners in an attack.

"The law needs to be changed to it's jail time. I don't care. If someone wants to fight a dog, or be cruel to a dog, there needs to be a consequence at the end."

Teems explained how she believes some dog breeds are misunderstood. 

"I think people give breeds of dogs a bad name by taking them to fights... nine times out of ten, they're the sweetest things."

Teems and Brookman bring two very different perspectives; however, they agree on one point in particular. 

"If you judge a dog based on its breed, it's like judging a person on their color... it's about how you raise a dog." Teems said.

"If they're raised right, any dog is a good dog." Brookman said. 

While different perspectives and experiences exist involving pit bulls, some towns cite evidence as to why they choose to ban them.

For instance, Mayor Dave Fish of Belle Plaine said the city council inherited the ordinance from Benton County, which bans pit bulls. He said the town has had issues with the breed, and said a lot of evidence shows bites come from pit bulls. Mayor Fish also said, he hears and understands both sides of the pit bull argument; he said there is no good answer when it comes to the debate. 

For more information, including city animal codes and a breakdown of fines and consequences for owners in dog attacks, click here


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